Transforming Toxic Leaders

Transforming Toxic Leaders

Transforming Toxic Leaders

Transforming Toxic Leaders


Unlike other books written on "toxic leaders," this book takes issue with the predominant view that "toxic leaders are bad" and destructive to their companies. Rather, the author argues that even highly productive leaders have some toxic qualities central to their success story. The book redirects the conversation about toxicity in a more productive direction, as toxic leaders are not just viewed as villains and liabilities, but are also considered as potential assets, innovators, and rebels.

Working on the premise that "toxicity is a fact of company life," the book provides organizations with a model and blueprint on the advantages to be gained from skillful anticipation, control, and handling of troubled and difficult leaders. In contrast to dysfunctional organizations that ignore toxicity or dwell on the perceived destructive impact of toxic leaders, successful companies come up with resourceful, innovative strategies for turning seeming deficits into opportunities.


Like the two-faced Roman god, Janus, the leader must always
be looking both inwards and outwards, a difficult position…
concentrating solely on one or the other is a more comfortable
position but it undermines the role of the leader, and thus the
strength of the institution's representation in the outer world

—A. Obholzer, The Unconscious at Work

Dysfunctional downsizing inc.: bentley pacific

Late one Friday afternoon as engineers and staff were about to depart for the weekend, an e-mail terminating 273 employees suddenly appeared on monitors throughout Bentley Pacific Engineering, a firm based in Seattle, Washington. (As noted in the Introduction, I have changed the names of companies and individuals throughout the book to maintain client confidentiality and personal privacy.) Shock waves of disbelief welled up as deeply committed aerospace designers and administrative assistants attempted to grasp the full brunt of their dismissals. They were to pack up their belongings and move out of their offices before the start of the next workweek. the traumatic effect of the downsizing extended beyond those terminated to the remaining employees, who assumed that they would be next. Their colleagues had been the victims of a sudden act of organizational sabotage. How could they ever trust leadership again?

Monday afternoon in a hastily called meeting, Bentley ceo Cal Burton gave an obligatory, politically correct speech hitting on all of the cost-containment buttons. Burton's speech was an act of shallow showmanship, pure cliché, and only served to deepen his employees' wounds and mistrust. It was all about bottom lines, with no discussion of human capital or recognition of the emotion of his audience. Immediately following the CEO's talk, twelve managers informed members of their respective divisions that the downsizing was still in progress, with further cuts inevitable. Meanwhile, both professionals and . . .

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